Excerpt from Reuters

Thousands of Los Angeles-area hotel workers went on strike on Sunday demanding pay hikes and improved benefits in a region where high housing costs make it difficult for low-wage earners to live close to where they hold jobs, union officials said.

Hotel workers, including housekeepers, dishwashers, cooks, waiters, bellhops and front-desk agents, struggle to afford housing in cities where they work, and many were idled during the COVID-19 pandemic while industry profits soared, the union said in a statement.

"Our members were devastated first by the pandemic and now by the greed of their bosses," union co-president Kurt Petersen said in a statement.

The union reached a contract deal on Friday with the largest of its employers, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown L.A., averting a strike against that property, union spokesperson Maria Hernandez said.

She urged the industry's negotiating coalition, the Coordinated Bargaining Group, "to follow the lead of the Westin Bonaventure."

The bargaining group was negotiating on behalf of 44 unionized hotels, with the remaining 21 expected to go along with whatever settlement is reached, according to the Los Angeles City News Service.

The union said its workers earn $20 to $25 an hour and is demanding an immediate increase of $5 an hour and an additional $3 an hour in subsequent years of the contract, plus improved healthcare and retirement benefits.

Both the union and management said the hotel group has countered by proposing wage hikes of $2.50 an hour in the first 12 months and $6.25 over four years for most workers. Wages for housekeepers in Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles who currently earn $25 an hour would rise 10% next year and to more than $31 by 2027, under the industry's offer.

Unite Here also is seeking creation of a hospitality workforce housing fund, which according to management would be funded with a new 7% tax on guests staying at unionized hotels.

The union cites survey results showing 53% of hotel workers have either been forced to move in the past five years or will move in the near future due to soaring housing costs.

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